8. Ry Cooder
In Ry Cooder's hands, the guitar becomes a time machine. Ever since he began as a teen prodigy in the Sixties, he has been a virtuoso in a host of guitar styles going back to the most primal bottleneck blues, country, vintage jazz, Hawaiian slack-key guitar, Bahamian folk music and countless other styles. He's combined these different musical idioms into his own eclectic style as one of the world's foremost performing musicologists. He got his start playing the blues with Taj Mahal in the Sixties and, after a stint in Captain Beefheart's Magic Band, began making solo records such as Paradise and Lunch and Chicken Skin Music, unearthing obscure folk tunes like "Vigilante Man" and "Boomer's Story" and breathing slide-guitar life into them. Cooder also gave one of the most significant guitar lessons in rock & roll history: During his sessions with the Rolling Stones in 1968, he taught Keith Richards five-string open-G blues tuning, which Richards used to write some of his greatest riffs for songs on Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed and Exile on Main St. He played on the Stones' "Love in Vain," which features Cooder on mandolin, and on Randy Newman's "Let's Burn Down the Cornfield." Since the Eighties, he has composed acclaimed scores for films such as Paris, Texas. He continues to explore sounds from around the world, collaborating with African guitarist Ali Farka Toure on the 1994 Talking Timbuktu and assembling old-school Cuban musicians for the wildly successful Buena Vista Social Club.